Urban Missions gives students opportunity to burst “the Baylor bubble”

Photo courtesy of Baylor Urban Missions

By Jordan Davidson | Reporter

Baylor’s Urban Mission program was built to “provide opportunities for students to engage in the greater Waco community through relationship building and service.”

The program includes 17 different student-led teams dispersed between multiple local organizations where students are able to devote time each week to serving around the Waco community.

Urban Missions will host Executive Director of Talitha Koum Institute, Susan Cowley, for a lecture titled “Bursting the Baylor Bubble” at 3:30 p.m. on Feb. 26 in the Bobo Spiritual Life Center.

John Slosted, ministry associate for Urban Missions and Masters of Theology student at Truett Seminary, said the program allows students to gain volunteer experience and give back to their community.

Through the program, Solsted said students are able to pick an organization ranging from working with children or the elderly to helping those with special needs or helping restock a food pantry and volunteer at that location on a weekly basis.

“Our community partners are usually either churches or nonprofits,” Slosted said. “We’re trying to give students the opportunities to kind of serve in not just a one time thing. [Urban Missions] is a weekly experience so that students are able to really build relationships.”

Lexington, KY sophomore Catherine Van Tatenhove, said that leading the volunteer team to The Blue House, an after school program for underprivileged kids in the Kate Ross community, was a great way to continue service in the community.

“Coming to Waco and just knowing just a little bit about the poverty rates and the very diverse population, I wanted to continue volunteering,” Van Tatenhove said. “I knew I wanted to work with kids because I’ve done that in the past and that’s just always been something I felt like is really important.”

For students like Van Tatenhove, volunteering with Urban Missions helps them branch out and get connected with the local community in various ways.

“Everyone talks about the ‘Baylor Bubble’ and I think that that discourse is super important,” said Van Tatenhove. “But if you’re not actually like out there volunteering, then that can kind of get lost on you.”

Slosted agrees that serving different people and groups in Waco has an impact on the student volunteers and their perception of society.

“Volunteering allows students to see what is going on in Waco and helps them see how systems work in the real world,” said Slosted.

Slosted said that volunteering can sometimes go beyond just showing students how to assist a group in accomplishing their mission.

“Volunteering is really like experiencing what people go through,” Slosted said. “It’s not just us trying to help people like they are some object but walk alongside with them- get to the point where their problems are our problems.”

Van Tatenhove said she encourages students to use their time at Baylor to find ways to branch out and get involved.

“Find something in Waco that’s like not necessarily connected to Baylor that pushes you out of your comfort zone,” Van Tatenhove said. “Just staying in your comfort zone is kind of the worst.”